The Homeschooling Restaurant
or How to Choose Curriculum
Every new homeschooler asks it. Every veteran has answered it a hundred times. "Where do I buy curriculum, and how much does it cost?" Compare purchasing curriculum to feeding your family. Where do you get the food? There are lots of tasty options - a fabulous sit-down restaurant, the pizza joint around the corner, or the neighborhood grocery store. Each selection has its own advantages, just don?t blow the grocery budget on a bunch of junk food.
Keeping in mind that what is easiest to prepare is usually more expensive, our list is organized by the cost of services. Families with less experience or time to invest may benefit from the full-service publishers, while super-creative moms may prefer to cook everything from scratch.
The Full-Service Restaurant
This is the five-course meal of homeschool curriculum. It's a complete, coordinated system that includes everything. The course of study is traditional, similar to what you would find on the menu of your local private school. Experienced teachers are provided via DVD, satellite, or Internet for the student to watch and learn. Completed work is then mailed in for correction, and the publisher keeps transcripts. In most cases, an accredited diploma is given to students when the program is completed. While these are the easiest for parents to use, there's not any ordering Ã la carte. The class choices are already made; the schedules are set in stone; and you pay four-star restaurant prices.
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Have time to run to the deli, but don't want to do the dishes? Try these pre-packaged curriculum kits that include all necessary texts, teacher's guides, and tests. You're assured of giving your children a well-balanced diet, since coursework is all planned out for you. Just teach from the lesson plans, and send in finished work to the publisher. They do the grading and record keeping for you. Dessert is included - diplomas are issued to students who complete the graduation requirements. However, families still have to order off the menu, since the kit already has the books chosen for you and there are no substitutions on this combo meal.
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Are you willing to spend a little time in the kitchen if it saves you some money? Purchase the ingredients in the form of the curriculum kits described above, and then cook it yourself. Parents still do the instruction, but also keep the records, so no diplomas are offered to graduating seniors. Spending the time with your little chef can really maximize his understanding, and there is lots of flexibility to the scheduling. One downside is that it can be difficult to implement with several children on different levels. Kind 'a like cooking three meals at the same time.
Many families decide they like the entree of a curriculum package, but not all the sides. Many choose to write their own recipe for education by choosing different publishers for each subject. This can give a much more individualized education that builds upon each student's strengths and weaknesses, so even the picky eater is satisfied. Of course, it takes a lot of cookbook reading to find the right text for every tastebud, but you can also serve up the same book for several children at once. Except for mathematical or grammatical concepts, most subject matter does not need to be presented in any particular order. With curriculum publishers outnumbering hamburger joints, you have plenty of grocery stores from which to choose. FAITH's list can be found by clicking on "Our Favorite Links" to the left.
Fresh From the Garden
For those who long for freshly baked bread and snap beans right from the vine, I offer this last alternative. It doesn?t cost much money to grow your own produce, but you will spend a lot of time getting dirty. In the same way, some parents enjoy writing their children's syllabus themselves. Some families like to use a scope & sequence to help cook it all up, while others prefer to let the child's interests and needs mandate the course work. Although methods vary greatly to determine what resources are used, common ingredients are library books and lots of hands-on projects. Advantages include a greater flexibility to capture "teachable moments," and the ability to flavor it all with your family's values.
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So what else do you need to know to help make the right curriculum decision? Remember that every publisher has its own flavor of curriculum, and not every family likes the same foods. Spend some time poring over catalogs to find what might work best with your young learners. Be sure to discover more about the different philosophies of education, like classical, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, and unit studies. Each philosophy is a different cuisine, and it's up to the master chef to choose which one to serve up. Have a good time savoring the aromas of your own homeschooling restaurant, and bon appetit!
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Â©2005 by Kara Smith Used by permission